Buh-Bye Chemo Port

Isn’t it time to bid that chemo port buh-bye?

It’s just over two years since ending the chemo regimen from the liver cancer metastasis. Today I am alive and thriving!

 

It wasn’t all easy, those two years. It’s amazing because one would think that finishing chemo would mean life can go back to normal, a healthy and productive life, free of disease, medications, doctor appointments, worry and fear, just like that. Well, on the surface I have those things now, more or less. I do see the doctor less, I am in better shape than I’ve been in years, there is a more predictable schedule and fewer emergencies than while treatments were ongoing.

Still, because of the “cancer club membership” I now have, I am married to the medical system. I’m dependent on doctors, on healthcare, and on insurance. Of course I am getting older… so there’s that, too, but before cancer I was an easy patient and pretty smug about it. I liked that I could see my doctor once per year or less! I liked the bod being solid and reliable. Now if I go more than two months without seeing a doctor, I feel insecure and usually have saved up a million concerns to discuss overwhelming the appointment.

That’s life in the fast lane! But I’ll take it. Gratefully.

 

As for having more time to myself:

Yeah, I have that too, but jeez, something happened since cancer: a rather extensive daily routine of taking care of myself! I credit graduation from cancer for starting some really good habits, like:

  • Spending 10 minutes on my teeth every night because my gums have receded so much, I’m just trying to keep my teeth! I have dental cleanings quarterly.
  • I exercise twice a day, and I like that, but I also feel obligated to stay strong to combat bone loss from the radiation and chemo. Incidentally, the osteoporosis diagnosis a year and a half ago (thinning bones) has been downgraded to osteopenia (less critical), I believe from a combination of supplements and exercise. Thank goodness my bones are rebuilding themselves as I was told they may not.
  • I have supplements to take at various times of the day.
  • I make a daily concoction of juices to cleanse my liver of all the supplements residues.
  • Clean my glasses, which recently became necessary.
  • I cook all meals and they are nutrition that Matt and I need specifically.
  • Then paying, scanning, and filing the medical bills for financial fitness as well.

That makes a full day just spent on myself!

 

Longer term:

There are maintenance blood tests, colonoscopies, and scans (oh my!). The results have been mostly routine, but each, more than ever, are followed by a period of nervous introspection. A nagging fear that the test will not come out normal, and I will have to start over again; breaking the news of a whole new diagnosis to my family and community, interviewing doctors, filling out health questionnaires, filling my schedule with doctors, therapies, new uncertainties, waiting for never-ending test results, and worrying about insurance eligibility! My imagination takes over and goes to the worst places. This never happened before my second occurrence of cancer, but darn it if the second occurrence has really changed my view of mortality.

i-have-this-nagging-feeling_LRG

Fighting cancer ages people. Not only the bone deterioration, receding gums, spiraling hormones, it also makes you look older. I think I’ve aged visibly and maybe look 14 years older than I did 3-4 years ago, which puts me in the same era as my husband! While I generally applaud age and the success of achieving a “ripe old age”, I’m mixed about it happening rapidly and unnaturally from medical treatments. Ok, so the new lines in my face are battle scars. They are for the naturally aging people, too, but I’m not used to seeing them on my face when 3-4 years ago I looked much younger. Also, age is a state of mind. True, and I feel older in the sense that I am wiser, I have more boundaries than I used to, and maybe a little more cynical. But the things that I love, I love so much more, have so much more sincere gratitude for kind acts, friendships, noticing the colors and relationships in the world around me.

Although emergencies haven’t entirely stopped, they are fewer and less consequential. I had a surprise root canal a few days ago. That was a first, and there will be more firsts, but at least I know that whatever it is, it will be an easy fix! I believe that given time my anxiety will decrease, I won’t even remember this worrisome era.

 

Finally, yesterday I had my chemo port removed!

It was a rather short, uneventful procedure in-office, rather than in the hospital. I could have chosen the hospital where they would put me under, but it really is a simple procedure in the clinic, cheaper, takes a fraction of the time, and I didn’t have to trouble anyone to drive me.

Power.Port.patient.shoulderPower.Port.diagram

Some people keep their port in long after the disease is gone. I guess ports can stay in indefinitely, and people may go four years, five years, nine years before taking them out. I never intended to keep it in for two years, but I just never had time to get it removed, and one more surgical procedure was just unappealing. My blood cancer level did jump a bit, and for a month I played it really conservative with diet, supplements and rest. That did the trick, because the levels fell again on their own.

I’ve got this. It’s time. I am ready to be free of the port. I no longer need to harbor the symbol that connects me to the disease I beat twice. Onward!

 

Buh-buy chemo port!

THE TEMPEST

We all experienced a mix of rain and sun here in Portland, Oregon, but my rain was a tempest of illnesses that hit all at once.

Well, I guess I get my comeuppance for having so many “good days” during this cancer process. Why? Because of the phenomenal weather this year and last, and the “feel good” days, as though I’m a thief making off with gold since the diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer last August.

Because I am immunodeficient following three very successful chemo treatments and resulting low red and white blood counts, it should not be surprising, yet is very discouraging, to have contracted three new illnesses at the same time. Each comes with its own misery, and altogether it overwhelms my usual optimism. I’ve earned pouting rights. So, let’s get to it!

Which came first? The sinus infection or shingles?

They both began around the same time two weeks ago. The sinus infection is very painful in the part right behind my forehead. Because, Dear Reader, you and I know each other pretty well, I will tell you this: The shingles is ghastly. I look like my butt is molding.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Velcro-lined slippers

Velcro-lined slippers

I’ve had neuropathy for a long time now, and is positively making my feet puffy, numb and hypersensitive. It’s like wearing nice, cushy slippers lined with Velcro.

Did you get your flu shot?

Finally, a pretty violent flu took over all else with all classic flu symptoms, but intensified by the other ailments. I don’t get flu shots unless I need ’em. ‘Cause if I don’t my immunodeficient butt get spanked with the flu. There were lots of muscle spasms and pain, twitches, tremors, chills, dizziness, projectile vomiting and foggy brain.

I want to complain so badly (and I have), but really, what can you do?

medication-supplements

Taking the nighttime regimen.
Photograph courtesy Matt

Whine and moan! As soon as you realize you are getting sick, you can’t just halt life and choose a different direction to avoid the illness, you can only sit and wait for the sick train to move in and then submit to it. Medicate? Well, yes, there are remedies, or at least relief meds that will take the misery down a notch or two, such as a flu shot, oh, wait, that didn’t really work for ANYBODY this year. In normal health, I refuse medications and supplements. Boy have I succumbed to that rap! Everyone who gets sick has to go through it, fully.

I am pretty good at taking care of my sick body, even before cancer. I have a knack for it. Because I believe the body’s immunity is really pretty amazing, I believe in supporting it every day. Thus, I’ve studied nutrition and fitness for years out of interest. Not that it gives me any real advantages because even if I follow a pretty strict health protocol, I still have to go through any illness I do get, fully.

The good news: I’m no longer at death’s door. Friday I was more vertical. Today, Saturday, I feel in good humor and know the worst is behind me. The neuropathy is getting better. When I couldn’t keep anything down for three days, I had to stop all meds, including anti-neuropathy supplements for a while. Even ginger beer, a known nausea remedy, failed me. I was malnourished and dehydrated – perfect conditions for an illness to go from zero to sixty in no time flat. I got up to over 103 degree temp, now down to… what? 93 degrees F? Ugh, really? Am I dead? I’m the last to know, always!! HA! Let’s try that again… That’s better. 98.2, more normal.

The sinus infection was really silent, but at its worst I had a headache of shooting pains which refused to submit to all pain relievers I could tolerate taking, for 3 days. I don’t know what migraines are like, I’ve never had one. That’s how I imagine them to feel, but do not want to offend any chronic migraine sufferers. No sleep and debilitating pain with no control. Kind of like that? I don’t know. Can I amputate my head? Please?

Shingles, I’m getting test results back early next week, but treating them now, started as a sore, painful spot on my nether regions, then spread up to my gluteus maximus, now is making it’s way toward my brain!! Not really, but spots are appearing on my back, neck and arm, all on the left side. And the welts are swollen and massively sore because I sit on them!! Can I get a butt transplant?!

boneless_chicken_ranch

I was NOT IN A GOOD MOOD, as my husband will attest! I laid in bed like a boneless chicken. Matt felt so helpless, as did I, but I was just too miserable to care about anything!

I know this is a very self-indulgent post, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t ever complain, so I am taking the stage. I guess I had to celebrate this occasion with a long rant. Since yesterday I am feeling so much better. I’m quite fatigued, and possibly contagious, so I’m going back to my nest for a few more days.

So I will close with a little entertainment: The Eurythmics’ “Here Comes The Rain Again”. It’s such a timeless song, and Annie Lennox is my muse.

Banishing the Tempest! Yay for recuperation!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR UPDATE

Hello All!

I haven’t updated publicly on where I am in the cancer treatments in a really long time. Sorry. I’ve been avoiding the FB rabbit hole while maniacally getting Hollarday preparations done. Tee hee.

Trust me, although I’ve had the month off from chemo, I’m still dealing with some medical stuff, nothing serious, just some discomforts and inconveniences!

By all accounts (family, friends, doctors) I am doing really well. I feel well; exercising, healthy appetite, seeing friends and celebrating *most* holiday events. Woohoo!

Right now I’m looking at surgery preps given by my complementary care oncologist – 4 pages of diets, supplements, etc, before and after surgery. Whoa… well it’s all good for me at least! Starting to think about what I will need after surgery.

The surgery is scheduled for Jan 8. No anxiety yet (that should come a day or two prior). Actually, it’s all going according to my plan, so I am very comfortable as things are. Wednesday, the 7th I sit down with the surgeon and finalize things. That’s it! It’s up to him after that! No pressure, Dr. Billngsley!

I’m expecting the very finest surgical work and exemplary follow-up care! I am doing my best, after all.

happy new year

Happy New Year and Ald Lang Syne

WOUND CARE

The last few days have sort of normalized regarding wound care for the MEAT FLAP.

wound_care_medical_supplies

Nothing has changed. It looks the same as the first day I removed the dressings to take a peek. The only difference I could see was a greyish creamy matter at one end of the opening. Any changes, to me, are to be regarded with suspicion and concern for more potential complications.

I had put in a call to a resource referred to me by the bedside nurse after my procedure called “Wound Care Clinic”. She listened patiently to Matt’s description of what the surgeon told him to do to care for the incision, then she said, “There are better ways”, like in this whispery, far-off, mystical tone.

“Better ways,” Matt and I repeated looking at each other. Huh. She wrote the contact name and number down on my discharge instructions, and away we went.

Then, after a few days of this seemingly ridiculous routine of Matt performing his interpretation of what the doctor instructed him to do each morning and evening, we decided we needed to see this Wound Care specialist.

florence-nightingale-wound-care

Florence Nightingale

Today Matt and I went to the Wound Care Clinic at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. The nurse, Sue Wilson, was like a refreshing breeze. She was the Florence Nightingale of Good Sam. She kept reaching out to put a tender hand on my wrist or hand, to express reassurance, that she was truly sorry that I’d had to endure the disease and procedures that I had, and she wants to help as many patients as she can take the complication out of their post operative wounds. There were a number of patients waiting to see her in the lobby.

She listened to Matt regale the story of Dr. Childs and the meso-rectal envelope and the stoma-gone-wrong to the hernia “blow-out” and repair surgery, then the instructions that Dr. Tseng had given to care for the “meat flap”.

Florence, I mean Sue, proceeded to lay me back on the exam table and examine the unbandaged wound. “Well, it looks great,” she said, mildly impressed. “It’s a clean cut, consistent color; it’s been well cared for” (I gave Matt a high-five later). Then she warned me she would clean and poke around to inspect it, that it may hurt. I noted that I don’t really feel hurt with this one. Apparently, in ostomy sites, which this was, nerves are damaged and it’s common that people will not feel pain. (That was our first ah-ha moment. That’s why I did not need my pain meds much after the surgery!)

Then she cleaned inside the wound, and to our surprise, a 5-inch long Q-Tip slid easily into a channel under the skin about 2 inches (Ayayay!). That’s where the infection track went. An infection leaves a trail, like snails do! (Another ah-ha.) Or at least like a train track.

She noted the measurements; how deep the tissue was, how long the incision, how far the channel went…

She then introduced a product that is seaweed (kelp?) -based. It looks like angel hair in a bag. With this, instead of packing with gauze, it helps the tissue stay nourished and it absorbs wound drainage. The name… blah blah, it’s a new one, …KALTOSTAT. Then she loaded brown paper bag of water-proof bandages that I can wear while showering, some Q-Tips, adhesive protection spray (to make it easier to remove the adhesive bandages from my skin) for me to take.

 

The Last Ah-ha

Now, naturally, I think, Matt and I have been gravely concerned about the cleanliness and preparation of our at-home exam table (the bed) and countertop, hands, etc, to avoid any possibility of introducing a whole new infection to the area. Rightly so. When you cut your finger, you use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, Neosporin, band-aids for protection, you name it, on the wound to keep it from getting infected. And if you don’t? It gets infected! And the infection gets worse and worse until you do it right for long enough that it heals up.

In this case, that’s not necessary, it turns out!

Sue said, “You can change your dressings every 1-2 days, and if you shower every day, just let the water run over the wound” (??!?). Yeah; just shower like you normally do, and don’t pay any special attention to the incision (?!?!). Soap and water will not hurt anything, it will be good for the cut to be irrigated by the water (!!?!).

Gah? Totally counter-intuitive, no? I knew that the surgeon just knew something we didn’t or he would have given WAY more specific care instructions. So weird.

Other than that, I feel more energy. Kombucha, green tea, lots of fresh turmeric root, ginger, garlic, water… kind of what I usually do, just more of it. I introduced wine last night for the first time in over a week, and I maintain a strict regimen of ice cream after dinner. I can exercise (walking and not too much upper-body stuff), watch Matt work/play out in the garden. In the next few months we will be eating from home-grown bounty!

Anyway, that’s the short story (ha ha) of what’s been up the last few days.

STITCH INFECTION: ABDOMINAL SURGERY RECAP

Surgery for the infection underneath my abdominal skin went as well as it could have yesterday.

Abdominal_Infection_SurgeryMatt delivered me to the hospital and stayed with me the entire time (that they would allow him). He was such a good sport, yet I felt badly that he would have to take an entire day away from his obligations for this little medical hic-up, and worry about me for hours on top of it all. Argh! Well, what could be done?

 

After a fast from midnight building up to the procedure, Matt & I made it to the hospital on time at 9:00am for an 11:00 procedure. The surgeon was running an hour and a half behind, so it was quite a long wait, but no worry, I could catch up on all the wonky politician statements in the voters pamphlet, ha!

 

Then the anesthesiologist appeared. Oh good, I thought, we’re getting close. I just wanted to get home. After the hernia repair, back in October 2012, I remember waking up and fighting nausea for hours. That kept me at the hospital until 11:30 at night when my stomach finally settled. I made sure they would mind the anti-nausea medication this time. Ok, it was a deal. Dr. Tseng came in and reiterated the planned procedure. We told him to go take a break and get lunch, we would be happy to wait until he felt ready (he was 1-1/2 hours behind schedule, for some unknown reason, possibly a stressful one!). He laughed assured us he would.

 

Next think I know, I was in the recovery room (funny, the passing of time). The nurse was buzzing around my bedside and I heard Matt’s voice coming around the corner. All went well, and I passed this test. No nausea to speak of. I ate some ice chips, then sipped some water, then added saltines on top of that. I was out of it, but felt good. About an hour and I took two Oxycodone for some creeping soreness, and got dressed, and we left! It was about 4:00pm; a full day.

 

The doctor had found some extra suture material under the smaller of the two pimples on my abdomen, which would have made it impossible to fight off an infection, then removed some of the mesh from under the larger pimple. He found no tracks of infection leading to other areas under the skin, so was confident he excised everything he needed to in order to vanquish the infection. Let’s hope. Now I will be “packing the opening” with gauze to draw out fluid as the infection drains. The nurse recommended instead that I see a healing specialist who will have some alternative methods of healing the wound. I guess packing went out of fashion? Not too fond of it, myself.

 

I felt some wetness on my clothes and the wound had been weeping through the bandaging and all three layers of clothing, already! I think this is good? My body is expelling the infection? I am not to change the dressing for 24 hours, so I packed on a hand towel and pulled up a fitted cotton skirt to aid holding it in place. I looked as white trash as possible with my hot pink tank top, short, fitted skirt and bulging belly bandages. Ha!

 

It was such a beautiful, sunny day, a good day for recovery on the couch! And Matt stopped at the grocery store to buy some salmon and halibut to barbecue. It was peaceful at home. I snoozed for a while. We watched The Social Network, which we enjoyed. Even though we were both tired, we had a lovely date!

 

Fingers crossed, now we wait and see. Only if the infection does not go away or the hernia reappears will I be back in the hospital.

CARING FOR THE PANCREAS

How to care for the pancreas

pancreas-care-happy

Happy pancreas

Since learning of high blood sugar results from my annual physical, I looked up articles on caring for the pancreas.

The internet says, what pancreases like:

–      Fresh lemon juice first thing in the morning, then throughout the day (acidic fruit, yet the body treats it as alkaline)

–       Lots of fruits and vegetables

–       Lean foods, low fats

–       Beans, brans, fibers, gelatin, pectin, agar

–       Green tea

Dr. Yeh reminded me told me to eat a healthy diet and stay active. The American diet usually means heavy dinners, but this is not always best. Try to spread dinner out to smaller portions over a longer period.

Then, my mother-in-law heard on the news that everyone in America is pre-diabetic (I assume, besides those who are diabetic already). REALLY!? Why don’t you hear about this? And why would I not believe this stat? Even some of the healthiest people I know still include candy in daily diet, sugar drinks, alcohol, refined sugar and carbs. Kids trick-or-treat, have birthday cake, pop, candy with terrible ingredients and are rewarded with doughnuts larger than their heads… no wonder we grow up to be diabetics. frowny-face-high-blood-sugar

And most people aren’t “the healthiest people”, yet they live long, comfortable lives, assuming they don’t die from diabetes or cancer or vehicle accidents… Maybe this news of “high blood sugar” on my annual physical blood test is not so alarming. Maybe I can not panic about it.

So, with that in mind, my revised diet strategy is *less* ice cream, alcohol, sugar at snack time. Less quantity of food per serving with more small snacks. At least to start out, and then move into a more refined diet plan. Then I will live a long, comfortable life, assuming I don’t die from diabetes, cancer or some kind of vehicle accident!scoop-of-ice-cream

The result?

So far, after a week, I feel better! Less gas, less diarrhea and discomfort at night. That’s the biggest difference. I still eat a little too much quantity at dinner (I am quite the cook), yet compared to the previous extravagant meal and dessert routine and glass(es) of wine with accompanying discomfort, I do feel much improved!

Of course, few will argue that food is a culture. It is my culture. Matt & I eat well and we feed people who visit us very well, like *good* food. Anything in moderation, and so that is the key with this new diet plan: moderation.

Pancreas: What say you? I guess I’ll find out at the next annual physical!

ANNUAL PHYSICAL

Meeting the new primary care physician for my annual physical went well, but some discouraging results…

annual-physical-primary-care

New primary care physician!

Recently I changed my primary care physician. Matt and I met Dr. Susan Yeh last year when I made an urgent trip to the doctor due to one of many bladder infections I had been getting since the 2012 rectal cancer surgery. My nurse practitioner, Cathi, was not available then, but Dr. Yeh was. I was in amazing discomfort, so we could not afford to be choosy. We learned that Dr. Yeh (pronounced ‘yay’) had a specialty in colon issues (!!), AND she is covered by my insurance plan (!!!). What a jackpot!

I saw Cathi for my physical once again after that, and my feeling was, as a cancer survivor, that I am a vastly more complicated patient this year than last, particularly my colon and rectum. Time for a change. I would miss Cathi, but I needed Susan.

Dr. Yeh performed my latest annual physical, and I felt in good hands. What a relief. I could ask questions about my digestive quirks that I didn’t know who else to ask, and she could give me answers – even more, a whole range of “could be’s” relating to my body since the cancer treatments. Why are my stools runny at night? Why so much gas? What are the lumps on my belly, and what’s with the stitches poking through my skin? Since she understood the procedures used during my surgery and treatments, she could ascertain what was going on in there. Then she spent extra time with me to catch up on everything she should know of my history. 

When she went over my blood test, I scored high on blood sugar, possibly for the 2nd, 3rd year in a row. That’s not a mark you want to score high on. It’s not in the “pre-diabetic” range, but still, it’s high!

What the hell? This sucks! What’s happening to my poor body?

I can’t deny that other people my age and older (even younger) all over the world are going through this same reality check at this time of life that our body parts are wearing down. Things aren’t working ‘like they used to’. Yet my expectations of my own body are high. Higher than high blood sugar! I’m very discouraged! Especially after recovering for the last year from a major illness!!

Dr. Yeh tells me, with age it’s expected that things may not work as well as they did before. For different people some things wear down earlier and some later. Eyesight, hearing, memory, joints, liver, hair gets grey… Things wear out. It depends on family genetics, personal habits, environmental factors, etc. It is the pancreas which processes carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and it produces insulin in response to regulate sugar in the blood. Then, in a matter-of-fact tone, her advice is to keep eating a healthy diet, lots of fiber, but not too much to cause gas, and stay active.

Huh, that’s it?

I drove home slowly, a bit dazed at my new mortal imperfection.

Oh my god! My pancreas is sick!?

I could not stop thinking of it after leaving the appointment. My mind was going over and over all the naughty sugar trysts over my 40 years of living:

ben-jerrys-blood-sugar

– all the trips to the 7-11 candy isle during my babysitting years…

– all the overeating of sugar, cake, ice cream…

– all the alcohol over the years…

Sugar highs, eating till I was ill, movie candy, Ben & Jerry’s by the pint, late night Voodoo Doughnuts… I’m not sure how I am not 300 pounds today! Oh, what have I done?!

What can I do? Will my poor pancreas forgive me?

COLLABORATION: To Blog or Not To Blog

To Blog or Not To Blog

A collaboration with Tammy Schuman of Scooter Saga

Scooter_Saga

Scooter Saga – by Tammy Schuman

cancer4me_michelle_dennis_lattanzi

Cancer4Me – by Michelle Dennis Lattanzi

I’ve reblogged posts from Tammy Schuman before, and I have followed Tammy’s Scooter Saga for a long time. She blogs from the perspective of someone living with Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA), and she does a marvelous job of bringing her readers into her world of ups and downs living with ataxia, and the day-to-day challenges she faces as her disease progresses. Tammy and I have become friends through our blogs, reading about our own life journeys.

Recently Tammy approached me to do a collaborative post about two bloggers’ perspectives on what blogging is and what it does for us. Each of us wrote our own essays on the topic, and Tammy brought them together. Below is an excerpt:

To Blog or Not To Blog

TAMMY – I enjoy blogging, but never appreciated the varied ways it could be used. As I mentioned earlier, I started journaling on my sister–in–law’s recommendation and my musings morphed into a blog* (web log). Getting Skeeter changed my perspective and provided all sorts of laughable moments. It was a compatible context for serendipity, my smart mouth, and learning to deal with a disability… Read more.

MICHELLE – Since I was very young, I enjoyed writing. I have always found it a comfortable and easy way to express my thoughts. I’ve journaled off and on for most of my life, with no other goal than to think on paper. Writing is a great way to work out problems. By writing down my stream of consciousness, I can order my thoughts and analyze them, then sometimes a solution will miraculously appear!.. Read more.

It was incredibly fun, and a first attempt at a collaboration for both Tammy and me. Enjoy, and please let us know what you think.

1 YEAR REVIEW: HOW DID IT GO?

Health Check: 1 Year Review

I went in to do my 1-year maintenance colonoscopy at Providence Milwaukie Hospital about two weeks ago (well, it was more like a 1-1/4 year colonoscopy after  scheduling/insurance reviews, etc. Heck!). So I finally got in to do it. Hell-upon-hell, I can’t wait until I can spread these out to three years instead of annually (after about a 5-year maintenance period). The prep is just so dang uncomfortable. It was the kind where you have to fast from morning, then drink 1-1/2 gallon of terrible tasting solution over a 5-hour period, ten ounces at a time. I was so waterlogged, I felt sick and didn’t finish the whole bottle. But by that time nothing was coming out of me but clear water, so heck with it.

The good news came right away. After the exam Dr. Poorman said that there were no masses or concerning features, although he mentioned seeing some diverticulosis, an asymptomatic irritation of the lining of the lower bowel, typical of people my age and older. It is nothing to be alarmed about, and he recommended eating more fiber. Good grief, I how much more fiber can I possibly eat given my high-fiber diet?

Then he recommended a CT scan to look into surrounding tissue and organs, also just a maintenance exam. So I went through the scheduling and insurance review rigamaroll, fortunately I could schedule for the following week.

The CT scan requires a fast for four hours, ok, and then an hour before the procedure a liquid prep of 16 ounces of contrast solution, which I remember tasting worse the last time than this time. I guess I was really hungry?

The actual procedure is pretty quick, and the radiology technician was awesome at explaining the whole process so patiently, professionally and thoroughly. Everything went smoothly, including the IV. I think only one before this has ever been so painless, woohoo! So then a few days later, the office called to reconfirm the earlier test results that there was nothing outstanding shown in the scans. Double WOOHOO!

Happy news. So that will do me for another year.

Wow, I’ve passed all my 1-year anniversaries

–      Diagnosis (Feb 23)

–      Colon resect/j-pouch/ileostomy (May 23)

–      Ileostomy take-down (Jul 11).

One more anniversary coming up:  The hernia surgery (Oct 15).

Now, here I am

It is all a memory, and getting more distant. Just some lingering reminders like the scars on my abdomen (battle wounds), some extra diarrhea (punishment for eating the wrong things), more gas (hmm, endearing), some shortage of energy (compared to BC – before cancer), and being initiated as a statistic in the ever-growing colorectal cancer club!

Well, it could be worse!

PROGRESS REPORT

Remember in school when we got progress reports to show our parents how we are doing?

It’s time for a progress report!

All things considered, I can say that I am doing very well indeed. I wish I were closer to the end of my medical bill horror show, but alas, it won’t be finished by year’s end like I was hoping. Mostly the expected stuff I suppose; nobody wants to kiss off their money charged, but like I’m trying to make clear to the medical billing departments, “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip!”

It doesn’t help that the insurance company before the procedure was performed did not disclose to me that, “Oh, your hernia surgeon, medical team and procedure are all covered, *but* the hospital is not!” So, I owe a quarter of the bill on that procedure which *should* have been covered… argh! But I won’t bore you too much with the details.

Besides that…

…with a few minor modifications post-hernia, I am back to my old ways. The ‘modifications’ I am referring to are things like not using the torso for ANYTHING besides standing up straight. Don’t want to undo that new hernia mesh. Also not lifting anything. Sorry Matt, packing I can do, but moving boxes is up to you, Babe.

A follow-up blood test at my oncologist’s office gave a clean report, meaning I am still in remission and starting off on the right post-treatment track.

I had a bit of a horror the other night when I looked at my poor scarred belly, and noticed a new bump. Ohhhhh. That’s not good. Even Matt had to admit that it looked new and a little unusual. This is the paranoia I referred to in this post. Well, since that day, nothing has changed, fortunately. I go on wearing my “belly bra” and hoping that it won’t get worse, or that it was just angry that day and will go away.

plumbing_post_cancer

New Plumbing

Bowel habits are, well, different forever, but I will definitely grow into them. The list of inconveniences in order of ‘annoying’:

– stains in the panties!
– I don’t know whether gas means *just gas* or if something comes with it.
– I have to “go” soon after a meal… 2 or 3 times.
– prickly butt when I’m hiking (for some reason thorough wiping isn’t as effective as it once was). Matt suggests a toilet paper barrier.
– bladder infections: a new phenomenon to me! Arrgh! And dang if it doesn’t happen just before a long road trip, every time so far.

So, in regards to the new plumbing, there is nothing that I can’t live harmoniously with, and there is nothing to say that it won’t get better with time. Still the evidence shows that I have experienced life-long changes this year that the average Joe/Jane does not have, and now I am among an elite group of ‘special’ individuals who have to do laundry more often than average.

The rose-colored short story is: Life is good, and every day is a bonus!

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